Highland School Board Says State Composite Index Doesn’t Work For Highland Schools
Monterey, VA – The Highland Board of Supervisors and School Board have a big problem that will have to be addressed soon. The state’s composite index that determines school funding from the state, doesn’t work well with Highland County because of its unusually small population density. This leads to underfunding of the school requiring the county to provide extra money.
As enrollments continue to decline over the next five years, the number of students could drop to near 200. With all the state mandates and the fixed overhead costs, it will not be possible to cut the school budget much further. The supervisors and school board members met Monday evening to plan a strategy for finding a solution to the school funding problem. School Board member Kirk Billingsley summarizes part of the problem.
“There’s certain fixed costs that we discussed in the past for buses, for heating, for teachers,” says Billingsley. “Once you get below 350-400 [students], the formula just doesn’t work, and that’s obviously what we need to impress upon our legislature.”
School Superintendent Percy Nowlin says the school enrollment could decline by as many as 20 students over the next two years, before leveling off at 2 to 3 students per year. With over $600,000 in state cuts since 2009, and the small number of students in Highland schools, Nowlin says it’s evident that the composite index is not working for the county.
Mr. Nowlin says combining Highland schools with those in Augusta or Bath counties is really not an option because of the long bus rides that would result. Supervisor Robin Sullenberger says the school board needs to approach the problem in a very structured way in consultation with the State Superintendent of Schools and the appropriate financial personnel in Governor Bob McDonald’s administration. School board members agreed to set up a meeting with state officials to discuss how to address the school systems problems.